Saturday, August 8, 2015

Double-dipping Part 2 AKA 'My Legs Hurt'


Summiting with Subho

Valley of the Achy Knees
Bear Country
Korean Hare Lepus coreanus
Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone
Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia
 Following another 'twitchy' hunch, Subho, Helly and I headed north to Jiri-san ('san' = mountain) at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. on July 10th.  The trip was ostensibly exploratory, but I think the true motivating factor that got Subho out of Seoul and me out of bed was the chance of seeing Spotted Nutcracker at the peak, and perhaps Ruddy Kingfisher (shaking fist at sky) in the lower valleys.  Fitting my 'Twitching is crap!' narrative well, we predictably didn't spot either of those species.  I believe we picked a peak that was slightly too low, as Spotted Nutcrackers move higher in summer.  That's how she goes.
  The best bird of the trip was a surprise Hazel Grouse that appeared in the trees above us as we halted on the trail for several minutes to get a better look at some buntings.  The Hazel Grouse is a cryptic species, letting out a deceptively high-pitched call for a bird of its size.  It also hangs out in trees much of the time, whereas it seems like it should be more of a ground-dwelling bird (which it often is).   We also got looks some very grey Bull-headed Shrikes, young Japanese Bush Warblers, and Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, among the more common woodland species.  Click here for better Hazel Grouse images: http://snowyowllost.blogspot.kr/2014/02/big-weekend-in-seoul.html
  Before we started the descent, I looked at the map and scoffed "Four hours to walk two kilometres?  Ha!  We'll be down in an hour and twenty minutes!"  I was very soon eating my words, as the trail was extremely steep, and made up of a hellish series of uneven and slippery mini-boulders.  To put an exclamation point on the matter, it started raining...we're talking Forrest Gump rain...halfway down.  I was limping and sodden by the end, and my knees ached for several days after.  As for my calves - they were wrapped in the rusty barbed-wire of extreme soreness for over a week.
  In spite of all those tribulations, we may just have to have another go at Jiri in the winter.  I hear those nutcrackers are easier to see in winter, and there are Alpine Accentors up there too.
   In other news, it has been egg-fryingly hot and humid in Suncheon these days.  I'm about to head out into the pre-dusk cool to continue my unending Watercock hunt, inspired by something an old man muttered to me the other day.  "Watercocks?  Oh yeah, there are tons of them on the other side of that river."  Here's hoping he wasn't talking about the 1980's.

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